First things first: No, Love Your Dum and Mad is not a particularly upbeat record. There’s that uncanny cover art, there are those song titles of “Dreary Town” and “The Devil” and “Winter Reigns”, and they’re not misleading. Singer-songwriter Nadine Shah tells stories that lament happier, bygone days, and Love Your Dum spends almost all its time in the minor key.
Narratives aside, give two spins of this, her debut LP, and it’s clear that moodier territories are what Shah was made for. A former jazz singer of Norwegian and Pakistani descent, Shah has a bellow that could conjure a thunderstorm, recalling similarly mysterious qualities of Kate Bush, or more recently, Sharon Van Etten. Her choices of arrangements are equally eerie, and can dive from a grand piano piece to atonal accompaniment from any instrument at any moment. It takes a second to even realize that most of the album’s songs are based around loops, because Shah’s voice single-handedly directs them so many different ways.
Love Your Dum and Mad was written in tribute to two close male friends of Shah: one an ex-boyfriend and the other the cover art’s painter, who both took their own lives just before or during the album’s creation. Shah has said that her focus on Love Your Dum was to explore mental health treatment and its common taboo designations, especially amongst men; second track “To Be a Young Man”, the moment the album kicks into full force, almost reads like a subtitle for Love Your Dum and Mad.
All of which adds up to both a staggeringly well thought-out eulogy, and a promising debut exhibition. Love Your Dum never relents from the lofty and noble goals it sets for itself, right up until the raised-octave piano work of the final beautiful few measures on closer “Winter Reigns”. They’re goals thoroughly achieved, as somehow, Shah always find a way to keep Love Your Dum and Mad simultaneously heartbreaking and inspiring throughout.
Essential Tracks: “To Be a Young Man”, “Dreary Town”, and “Winter Reigns”